Bolivia’s Election Turmoil: A Timeline

 

Bolivian President Evo Morales has resigned after three weeks of turmoil stemming from a disputed October 20 election in which he was declared the winner, giving him a fourth straight term.

Here is a recap of the tensions leading to his dramatic move.

Morales seeks fourth term

On October 20, Bolivians go to the polls with Morales, Latin America’s longest serving leader, seeking a fourth straight term.

His only serious challenger is centrist Carlos Mesa, president between 2003 and 2005.

Second round?

Partial results released hours after polls close put Morales on 45 percent of the votes and Mesa 38 percent, with 84 percent of ballots counted.

A margin of 10 percentage points between candidates is required to avoid a second round runoff.

Morales has won all his previous elections in the first round.

Vote count stalls

The release of official results is inexplicably stalled overnight with 84 percent of votes counted.

On October 21, international observers ask for clarification and Mesa accuses Morales of cheating to avoid a runoff.

Opposition supporters protest outside key vote counting centers in the capital, La Paz, and in other cities.

Count change

Late October 21, the election authority releases more results showing Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted.

Organization of American States (OAS) monitors express “deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change.” Mesa alleges fraud.

Violence breaks out at protests in several cities. Mobs torch electoral offices in the cities of Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clash in La Paz.

Opposition strike

On October 22, opposition groups call for a nationwide general strike from midnight “until democracy and the will of the citizens are respected.”

The vice president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal resigns, criticizing what he calls mismanagement of the election count.

There are new clashes between protesters and security forces in La Paz.

‘Coup’

On October 23, Morales likens the general strike to a right-wing coup.

Mesa urges his supporters to step up protests and insists a “second round must take place.”

He says he will not recognize the results tallied by the tribunal, which he accuses of manipulating the count to help Morales win.

Clashes break out between rival demonstrators in the opposition bastion of Santa Cruz, where offices housing the electoral authority are set on fire.

Security forces and demonstrators also clash elsewhere.

Morales declares victory

On October 24, Morales claims he has won outright.

In the evening, the election authority issues final results, giving Morales has 47.08 percent of votes and Mesa 36.52 percent.

The opposition, the EU, the US, OAS, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia urge a second round.

Fresh clashes take place between rival groups, along with road blocks and demonstrations.

On October 27, Morales says that there will be no “political negotiation” and accuses his rivals of preparing a “coup”.

Call for ‘de-escalation’

On October 28, protests deepen with around 30 wounded in clashes with security forces and between supporters of Morales and Mesa at La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

On the 29, the government invites Mesa to take part in an audit of the election results by the OAS, a body that works to promote cooperation in the Americas.

The United Nations calls for an urgent “de-escalation” of tensions.

Outside audit

As outrage grows, the OAS begins to audit the election results.

On November 3, an opposition leader vows to oust Morales and appeals to the military for its support.

The death toll in the protests rises to three on November 6 with the death of a student.

On the 8th, police officers in at least three Bolivian cities join the opposition, in some cases marching in the street with them.

On November 10, the OAS announces that it found many irregularities in its analysis of the election.

Morales calls a new election, but it is too late. Two ministers and the speaker of congress resign after their homes are attacked by opposition supporters.

The commanders of the armed forces and the police add their voices to the calls for Morales to step down.

On the evening of November 10, from his native coca growing region in central Bolivia, Morales announces his resignation after nearly 14 years in power.

Morales: Latin America’s Longest-Serving Leader Collapses Under Protests

Handout photo released by the Bolivian Presidency of Bolivian President Evo Morales speaking during a press conference in El Alto, on November 9, 2019. Police in three Bolivian cities joined anti-government protests Friday, in one case marching with demonstrators in La Paz, in the first sign security forces are withdrawing support from President Evo Morales after a disputed election that has triggered riots. HO / Bolivian Presidency / AFP

 

Evo Morales was Latin America’s longest-serving president until he resigned in ignominy Sunday, after weeks of opposition protests over an election ultimately said to have been riddled with irregularities.

A member of the Aymara people, he grew up in poverty on Bolivia’s high plains and was a llama herder, coca farmer and leftist union leader before rising to take office as his country’s first indigenous president in January 2006.

His victory in October 20 elections — verified by the heavily-criticized Supreme Electoral Tribunal — had been set to extend his mandate until 2025 and give him 19 consecutive years in power.

But election monitors from the Organization of American States who carried out an audit of the controversial polls said they had found many irregularities in their analysis of the election.

Morales called new elections, but resigned within hours of that announcement after army and police chiefs joined calls for him to quit.

Recently turned 60, Morales was one of the last of the wave of leftist leaders who swept to power in the region in the early 2000s.

Those leftist governments have since fallen away, torn down by a conservative backlash in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador — though Argentina’s Peronist left bucked the trend to win last month’s elections amid an economic crisis there.

Landmark gains

Under Morales’ leadership, Bolivia made landmark gains against hunger and poverty.

Sitting on the region’s second-largest gas reserves, after Venezuela, and the world’s largest reserves of lithium, Bolivia’s economy has more than tripled in size during his 13 years in office.

However, long before the social unrest of recent weeks that heralded his resignation, opponents accused him of tolerating corruption and investing in flashy infrastructure projects at the expense of health and education.

A case in point is his decision last year to move the government headquarters into a luxurious skyscraper in La Paz.

While still among the poorest countries in Latin America, Bolivia’s poverty rate has decreased from 45 percent of the population in 2010 to 35 percent in 2018, according to the World Bank.

But environmentalists blame him for raging wildfires that destroyed more than four million hectares (10 million acres) of forest and grassland, saying legislation enacted under Morales encouraged wholesale deforestation in order to expand agricultural production.

It’s all a long way from his childhood herding llamas and helping his parents in the fields in a small, arid village in western Bolivia’s Oruro department.

“Until I was 14, I had no idea there was such a thing as underwear. I slept in my clothes… (which) my mother only removed for two reasons: to look for lice or to patch an elbow or a knee,” he wrote in a candid autobiography.

Four of his six brothers and sisters died of malnutrition and disease before the age of two.

Referendum defeat

Morales never went to college and has considerable difficulty reading speeches in public, instead preferring to improvise by repeating phrases about the economic strides made under his government.

Before his narrow but ultimately tainted victory in last month’s elections, Morales has been re-elected twice before with large majorities. His only defeat at the polls came in a 2016 referendum when he tried to amend Bolivia’s constitution to run for a fourth time.

Refusing to accept defeat, his party petitioned the country’s highest court, which analysts say is packed with his allies and which backed his right to run again.

The move led to protests and allegations of corruption from the opposition, whose candidate, former president Carlos Mesa, provided Morales with his stiffest electoral test yet.

Morales had urged the electorate to give him “five more years to complete our great projects” and continue to expand one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies.

Under Morales, Bolivia has increased foreign investment, particularly from China, to help it exploit its rich natural resources and is on track to become the world’s fourth-largest producer of lithium by 2021.

A fierce critic of the United States, Morales was a staunch ally of leftist governments in Cuba and Venezuela.

OAS Recommends Fresh Bolivia Elections

Map of Bolivia

 

The Organization of American States recommended Sunday canceling the first round of the Bolivian elections, held three weeks ago and claimed by the opposition as fraudulent, and holding new elections.

“The first round of the elections held last October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again, the first round taking place as soon as there are new conditions that give new guarantees for it to take place, including a newly composed electoral body,” the organization said in a press release, as thousands of Bolivians are preparing to enter a fourth week of protests demanding the annulment of the elections and the resignation of President Evo Morales.

More details later.

Argentine FA To Appeal Messi’s Suspension

Messi Banned From Argentina Qualifying CampaignThe President of the Argentine Football Association, Claudio Tapia says the football body will appeal the four match suspension against Lionel Messi

The President was disappointed that Messi’s sanction was announced less than six hours before the kickoff of their last qualifier match against Bolivia in La Paz.

The five time world player of the year would play in only one of Argentina’s remaining five 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.

Bolivia President, Evo Morales Loses Referendum

Evo MoralesExit polls suggest President Evo Morales of Bolivia has narrowly lost a referendum to allow him to stand for a fourth term in office.

One poll suggested that 52.3% voted against the proposal to amend the constitution, while another suggested it was 51%.

But his Deputy said that Bolivia’s first Head of State of indigenous origin could still win, as official results trickle in.

The change would have let Mr Morales remain in power until 2025.

Meanwhile, opposition supporters have been celebrating the referendum result in parts of the main city, La Paz.

The BBC reports that the opposition leader, Samuel Medina, urged Mr Morales to “recognise the results” and focus on solving Bolivia’s problems in his remaining time in office instead of trying to run for another term.

However, Vice President, Alvaro Linera, said the results so far were a “technical tie.”

He urged people to wait for the official results saying that any celebrations by the opposition were premature.

“Opinion polls, especially exit polls, make mistakes,” he told reporters.

“They don’t take into account the vote abroad. They don’t go to the more remote locations, where there is more support for our socialist movement.

“It’s highly likely that the numbers shown by the opinion polls would be very different from the reality,” he said.